Perceptions of cash-based aid in Kenya

In December 2017 we surveyed 264 cash transfer recipients in Kenya's Nairobi and Turkana counties, as part of a project to improve user journeys for humanitarian cash transfers. This work is funded by DFID and implemented together with experts from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Oxfam. The survey examined people's experience with humanitarian cash transfer systems and delivery models, as well as their expectations and preferences. Findings from this survey, along with visual user journey maps, will help ascertain how delivery mechanisms can best respond to the needs and expectations of people affected by crisis.


Two-thirds of survey respondents were female. Half of those surveyed were displaced, mostly from Somalia and South Sudan, as well other countries broadly representative of the refugee population in Kenya, and about 20% of respondents reported some disability. Most of the people interviewed considered themselves illiterate (59%), while 41% identified as somewhat or completely literate.

Key findings are summarised below.


Most users receive a regular unrestricted transfer, or regular food items and vouchers

Interviewees report experience with a variety of support types. The most common combinations were receiving food items combined with a monthly voucher (36%) and receiving food items with monthly unrestricted transfers (20%). Some 38% of respondents reported receiving only cash support (the remaining 6% reported a number of other combinations). Electronic food vouchers through restricted SIM cards as part of the WFP's "Bamba Chakula" programme are the most common form of transfer.


Mobile money accounts are the most common delivery mechanism

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Users do not know how aid agencies target recipients

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While 20% of Kenyans say they know how assistance is being targeted, only 4% of refugees feel in the know. Similarly, of all users surveyed, only 20% feel they have had some say in how they would like to receive their transfer.


Respondents are split on whether cash assistance goes to those who need it most

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Recipients of the Kenyan Red Cross or NGOs appear more positive in their assessment of fairness than recipients of UN agencies and the Kenyan government.


Satisfaction with delivery mechanisms is high

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Transfers via M-Pesa are viewed most positively, followed by prepaid cards, other mobile money accounts, and bank accounts. Cash recipients appear to be least satisfied, although this group was too small to infer robust conclusions from the sample.

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User experiences are largely positive and become easier further down the line

The data suggests that Kenyan nationals find most steps of the journey easier than refugees.

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The relative ease of experience varies depending on delivery mechanism

Note that for cash in hand, the sample was too small to infer reliable conclusions.

Note that for cash in hand, the sample was too small to infer reliable conclusions.


Recipients value flexibility and trust the most

The survey shows that flexibility and trust are what cash recipients care most about. Aspects relating to financial inclusion, such as convertibility and interoperability appear less important.

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Users are split over preferences for combined or parallel transfers

In Kenya, respondents are split on whether they prefer receiving transfers via a single mechanism or through multiple ones. Respondents were also split on whether they preferred multiple small transfers or a single large combined transfer.



Ground Truth Solutions, together with the Overseas Development Institute and Oxfam, is currently implementing the DFID-funded research project entitled "Improving user journeys for humanitarian cash transfers". The objective of this project is to understand recipients' experience of humanitarian cash transfer technology systems and delivery models, to optimise how cash-based support is offered to people affected by crisis. Kenya has been included as a country case for this project, given that its financial sector has seen strong innovation over the past several decades, leading to rapid growth in financial inclusion. Correspondingly, aid agencies and the Kenyan government have been using cash and vouchers for many years, both as part of recurrent drought and refugee assistance responses, and based on a range of modalities and payment providers for unrestricted and restricted, conditional and unconditional transfers. With a variety of programmes and delivery mechanisms, Kenya's humanitarian cash landscape today remains fragmented. The main delivery mechanisms used are payments via bank accounts, M-Pesa and other mobile money, pre-paid bank cards, as well as cash in hand. For more information on Kenya's humanitarian cash landscape, see recent publications by CaLP East Africa.

The final results from our research in Kenya will be available in the summer 2018.

Contact us under to provide feedback or learn more.  

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Based on desk research, key informant interviews, as well as Ground Truth's existing research on cash-based assistance, the team developed a survey instrument that was implemented with n=264 respondents in Nairobi and Turkana county between 4 and 16 December 2017. Face-to-face interviews in Nairobi were conducted in Kawangare, Kayole, and Eastleigh. Data collection in Turkana county took place in and around Lodwar,  Kaputir and Kayole. Further interviews were conducted at the refugee camps in Kalobeyei and Kakuma, as well as in the neighbouring village of Komudei.

We would like to thank HIAS, UNHCR, WFP, the Kenyan Red Cross Society, HelpAge, Oxfam, and the Hunger Safety Net Programme for supporting our data collection and facilitating access to their clients.